Heroic Moments: Djulbic silences Popovic's goal-drought jibes
Some ribbing from Tony Popovic at Perth Glory training last week may have provided the perfect inspiration to ending Dino Djulbic’s 1499-day wait for a Hyundai A-League goal.
Djulbic’s four-year drought was the subject of the Perth coach’s comments in the build-up to Sunday’s trip to Central Coast Mariners.
But Perth players have risen to just about every challenge the Glory taskmaster has issued them this season, so it was only fitting that the 36-year-old centre-back silenced his manager with a crashing first-half header in the 3-0 win in Gosford.
“The boss was giving me stick the whole week saying I still haven't scored yet,” Djulbic revealed to FOX Sports post-match.
“I said, ‘wait, I'll score the important ones‘.”
After marking his third stint back at Perth with just 10 appearances last season, and given the arrival of Matthew Spiranovic to West Australia, few would have expected Djulbic to feature as prominently in Glory’s 2018/19 charge to the Premiers Plate.
However, the former Melbourne Victory and Gold Coast United man has made his imposing presence felt across 18 appearances, and helped fix the soft defensive underbelly that had long plagued Perth's ability to challenge for silverware.
Djulbic and his Perth teammates can seal the Premiership against Newcastle Jets next Sunday evening should Sydney FC drop points against Western Sydney Wanderers 24 hours earlier.
"We set our target from the start, we've only lost two games,” Djulbic said.
“We go into every game to win and that's what we're going to do next week as well.”
De Laet shines again as City lodge goal of the season contenders
Melbourne City have often favoured a gritty approach under Warren Joyce, but Friday night’s 4-1 win over Brisbane Roar was a reminder of their ability to dazzle and entertain.
Fantastic goals scored by Ritchie de Laet and Riley McGree formed an ideal response to Round 23’s dismal 3-0 defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers, which had raised alarm bells about the club’s championship credentials.
If Melbourne are to be in the running for silverware come the Finals Series, you can be sure de Laet will be at the forefront.
The former English Premier League winner scored an absolute beauty against the Roar, bringing his tally this season to seven goals in 22 matches. Only Mark Milligan (nine for Melbourne Victory in 2012/13) and Dean Heffernan (eight for Central Coast Mariners in 2005/06) have scored more from defence in the history of the Hyundai A-League.
Not bad for a player who only found the back of the net five times in more than 170 games in the English league.
Ninkovic edges Honda to claim Big Blue bragging rights
The general artistry of Milos Ninkovic and Keisuke Honda shimmered in Saturday night’s Big Blue battle, and there was always a strong chance either the Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory playmaker would provide the contest's decisive moment.
As it transpired, it was Ninkovic who struck the injury-time match-winner to give Steve Corica’s side a crucial 2-1 triumph over their interstate rivals.
“He’s been incredible, he just hasn’t got as many goals this year as his play has deserved. But to win a game like this, no one deserves it more," said Sky Blues skipper Alex Brosque.
How much of a psychological boost will Ninkovic's strike prove to be for Sydney FC's championship ambitions?